Workers Vanguard No. 1079

27 November 2015


Victory to the Kohler Strike!

About 2,000 members of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 833 have been on strike against the Kohler manufacturing company near Sheboygan, Wisconsin, since November 16. Ninety-four percent of the workers voted to reject the company’s contract offer, angered by the continuation of a two-tier wage scale and drastic hikes in health insurance costs. This is the first strike against Kohler Company, a major producer of plumbing products, since 1983. A 3,000-strong rally and march of strikers and other trade unionists was held on November 21 (photos above). A WV sales team spoke to many workers who knew about the long history of hard-fought battles against the viciously anti-union Kohler family, including the strike in 1934 during which two strikers were shot dead and 47 wounded by company guards and special deputies. When workers at Kohler walked out in April 1954, they began what was to be the longest strike in U.S. history—it was finally settled in 1966. One black striker with 20 years at Kohler told WV that sometimes “you just have to stand up and fight.” Today, older, Tier A workers are bitter that younger, Tier B workers doing the same jobs get less than two-thirds of the pay. However, Kohler strikers at the rally were unaware that, despite heavy opposition from auto workers, the UAW bureaucracy had just forced through contracts with the Detroit Three (GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler) that not only preserved the wage tiers but created new ones. As at Kohler, workers in auto are outraged by the perpetuation of divisive tiers. Equal pay for equal work!